King For A DayBy: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
The King Series Book Two
To Vicki Randall.
Thank you for giving me that last push.
Have you ever been wrong about someone? I mean, really, really wrong?
I’m not talking about guessing an age incorrectly or going out on a date with some “nice” guy you had a good feeling about, only to discover he’s a chauvinistic a-hole.
I’m talking about the kind of wrong that shatters the foundation of every belief you’ve ever had. The kind of wrong that wrings your heart bone-dry, and then infests your mind with a corrosive acid made of concentrated fear. Suddenly, you don’t know if you’ll ever breathe right again. Because if you could be wrong about this one person, then everything else in your reality is fair game. Nothing is sacred or real or unchangeable.
Have you ever been that kind of wrong?
I have. Holy hell. I’ve never been so wrong in my entire life. Because the beautiful, evil man at the center of the sloppy, tangled mess deep in my stomach is not who I thought.
Not even close.
I shook my head, mentally berating myself. You knew something was just not right with King. But this? I’d completely had my blinders on.
Hell, Mia. No one could have seen this coming. No one. Because it’s…fucking impossible.
Still, I couldn’t help thinking, if I’d just opened my eyes, I might’ve seen the truth.
Maybe I’d been distracted by his seductive lips or the hypnotic effect of those pale gray eyes outlined by thick, black lashes. Perhaps my attention had been hijacked by the godlike perfection of his masculine body and that deep, room-filling voice he used to control my emotions. Maybe I’d missed the truth because he scared the living hell out of me. Yes, his ferocity was a definite distraction. No man should be that lethal and powerful. No man.
And, as I read the entry of his journal while curled up on the antique leather armchair in his private chamber, two floors above his secret warehouse filled with priceless art, mystical artifacts, and hundreds of thousands of other objects he’d collected, I suddenly understood what it was all for, who he really was.
I closed the thick leather-bound book and crushed it against my chest, clenching my eyes shut, holding back the tears of horror that begged to be set free with a scream.
The man known as King, the man who was said to be able to “find anything or anyone for a price,” was so good at hunting because he had spent a lifetime searching for the one thing he needed most. It wasn’t more power or money—God knows he had enough of both to last an eternity. But what King wanted, only my death could bring.
And, dear Lord, despite every terrifying detail I now knew about the man, a tiny, sad little part of me wanted to give it to him. No one should be allowed to suffer so much in one lifetime. Not even King.
I just wished it didn’t have to end like this. Because at any moment they would be coming for me, and I would become the property of a man who intended to “pick the flesh from my bones.”
I dropped my face into my hands. “King,” I said with a sad breath, “if there’s any chance in hell you can hear me, I want you to know that—”
The heavy steel door to King’s chamber suddenly burst open.
“They’re here,” I whispered to myself.
Approximately Twenty Hours Earlier.
Key in hand, I gaped at the football-field-length warehouse overlooking the San Francisco Bay. It was six thirty in the evening, and a cool fall breeze drifted off the salty water. The street was empty but for a few plastic grocery bags rolling with the wind.
Go inside, Mia. Don’t be afraid. Nothing bad will happen. I glanced at the ominous, oversized steel door, and then closed my eyes, trying not to let my fear send me packing. I had to do this. If there was any chance of finding King, I owed it to him to try. Didn’t I?
I shook my head and ground the ball of one foot into the dirty sidewalk. No, perhaps I didn’t. King had disappeared two weeks ago. Two. And Lord knew my life was infinitely safer without him in it, but if I didn’t help him, then who?
The other demons from hell?
Okay, he wasn’t a demon. That I knew of.
He was, however, evil and beautiful and powerful. He also demanded complete obedience from those who “worked” for him, showing no mercy for those who pissed him off. Plus, he considered me his property.
Let me repeat that: His. Property.
How was that possible? It was a long story that can be summarized in one brief, twisted, unbelievable story: my brother went missing in Mexico; my life was threatened when I went searching for him; I couldn’t get help from anyone, including the authorities. In short, King had been the only option to present itself in a moment of desperation. So I went to him, a complete stranger, begging for help, unaware that doing so would cost me dearly. “My price is you,” he’d said. What he’d really meant was that I would have to trade my life for my brother’s.
I agreed. Yes, I had been that desperate. And I believed, at the time, that King couldn’t possibly have been serious when he said I’d have to work for him indefinitely.
Unfortunately, he had been dead serious. What was more unfortunate, I later learned, was he not only had the power to enforce our deal, but also had abilities far beyond that of any normal person, including causing pain and death with the flick of a wrist. And let me tell you, his punishments were no picnic because he knew exactly how to get inside my head. Literally and metaphorically speaking, which was why I swore over and over again that the man was the devil himself. How else could I explain his powers?
So why would a college-educated, professional woman of twenty-six mourn the loss of a sadistic, mysterious billionaire who wanted to own and control her like an obedient pet?
Simple. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Because at that very moment, my hand had found the courage my heart could not. It had shoved the key I’d found taped underneath a desk drawer in King’s office into the lock at the front of the warehouse. My brave, brave hand had even managed to twist the key and give the icy steel door a push.
My body became an unmovable mass, determined not to step an inch closer toward the darkness or toward the powerful, toxic cloud of death and despair lurking inside. To say the place had a bad vibe was a gross understatement.
I wondered if it wasn’t King’s body swimming in a pool of blood. After all, the man had enemies. Or perhaps King had tortured and killed people in there, leaving behind some bad juju. Or possibly the abyss before me was nothing more than an empty warehouse filled with the imprints of objects that had once occupied the space. After all, I could see such things. I was a Seer of Light.
What the hell did that mean? Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I knew very little about being a Seer and had yet to accept the existence of my “gift,” but King had opened my eyes to many, many strange and impossible things. One of which was the reality of sixth senses and abilities that defied logic or science. I, for example, could see colors—emotional impressions, if you will—of people and/or objects even after they’d left a place or passed on. King had thought to use my ability to track down something he’d been hunting for a very, very long time: the Artifact. I had no idea what it did, but I hadn’t proven to be much use helping him find it.
I looked down at my feet, wondering why they refused to move. Apparently, they weren’t as brave as my hands. I sighed and decided to look inside, using my gift.
I relaxed my lids, closing them just a little, and focused on my shallow breaths. When I reopened them and stared into the darkness of King’s warehouse, it was like gazing into a giant kaleidoscope of swirling rainbows. Every color was present, from the lightest to the darkest, not that I understood what they all meant. Red, I knew, was violent pain. Black, death. Blue, sorrow. Green was life. And purple? That was King. He let me see his colors once, only once, and it was the moment my feelings for him began to shift from hate and fear into something else, something I didn’t want to talk about. But maybe those messed-up feelings were really why I was there.
I dropped my head. “Dammit.” I had to go inside. I’d have to persuade the rest of my body to be as brave as my hands.
I turned on my phone’s flashlight app, took three quick breaths, and stepped inside, where I quickly found a bank of light switches on the wall. When I flipped them on, the place lit up like a stadium.
“Holy shit.” My breath left my body. What is this place?
Floor-to-ceiling, heavy-duty racks like you might see at Costco filled the enormous warehouse. But that’s not what shocked me. They were full of…stuff. Antique cars—yes, cars—huge oil paintings, stacks of books, marble sculptures of Roman soldiers and Greek gods, wine barrels, guns, and…I couldn’t begin to take it all in. Crossing aisle after aisle of shelves that had four or five tiers each, I strolled from one end of the room to the other.
There are three levels to this building? I’d seen it from the outside. Three distinct stories. Oh my God. So this is King’s arsenal. These were the things he scoured the earth to find, some I imagined to keep, some to barter away with members of 10 Club—I’d get to the story of those sick bastards in a moment. Right now, however, I needed to answer the hounding question that I simply didn’t want to ask: Why the hell was I really there? Had King wanted me to find this place, anticipating that something bad was going to happen to him?